an elderly artifact

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
There was no FBI warning at the front of Holly’s film, which didn’t surprise Ralph. Who would bother to copyright such an elderly artifact, when it was trash to begin with? The music was a hokey mixture of wavering violins and jarringly cheerful norteño accordion riffs.
Source: Outsider by Stephen King
Context: They are watching an old horror movie.

Is it normal to use elderly with an animated object? Isn’t kingism?

Glossary:
hokey: something thta’s hokey is silly and sentimental - expressing emotions in a way that seems exaggerated or silly: a hokey birthday card.
jarringly: in a manner that jars (have an unpleasant or annoying effect) or irritates.

Thank you.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You are right. "Artifact" (or "artefact") is not usually used for a film or book, something whose real substance or meaning is not in its physical form, and I have not heard it used this way. However, strictly speaking, it is not incorrect. I am not familiar enough with King's work to say whether this is a "Kingism".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The OED gives:
    "Artefact/artifact (n) - 1.a. An object made or modified by human workmanship, as opposed to one formed by natural processes.
    1998 D. Whyte Scotl. xiii. 265/1 The farm is run by a friendly couple who allow visitors to see a room filled with artefacts of the poet's life.

    In that sense, the use is correct.
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you. I phrased my question in contradiction to my intent. I meant to ask if it is normal to use elderly with an inanimate object. (An object made by a human remains inanimate).
     
    Last edited:

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I meant to ask if it is normal to use to use elderly with an inanimate object. (An object made by a human remains inanimate).
    It strikes me as a bit odd. I can't be sure because I haven't read the book, but it comes across to me as a deliberately tongue-in-cheek usage. It's certainly not something I'd copy, anyway.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    My opinions:
    A movie is an artifact, the same as a book, a tapestry, or a clay pot.
    "Elderly" refers to persons. Applying it to inanimate objects is indeed a Kingism. (Good word, jacdac!)
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I always thoroughly enjoy King's books because he uses language imaginatively and often to very good effect. As to referring to an inanimate object as elderly, I see nothing inherently wrong with it although it would be rather tongue-in-cheek (my elderly car, for example).
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Thank you. I phrased my question in contradiction to my intent. I meant to ask if it is normal to use to use elderly with an inanimate object. (An object made by a human remains inanimate).
    No. It strikes an odd note to me. Maybe it's meant to be funny, as London Calling observes.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ah, sorry for picking on the wrong word, but to me there is nothing at all unusual about using "elderly" for inanimate objects. Until I read later posts in this thread (and then looked it up in a dictionary), I had no idea that "elderly" is usually used only for people (and maybe animals). Certainly as a child in 1970s Britain I must have heard it used for inanimate objects often enough for me to never have picked up on the distinction.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The top ten nouns that follow "elderly" are all human Google Ngrams

    That said, there are animals and inanimate objects that are preceded by "elderly" - It tends, in the latter case, to have overtones of frailty or "in need or renovation" or "outdated."

    1871 J. Tyndall Fragments of Science · 6th ed, 1879. I. vi. 198 The ‘Urgent’ is an elderly ship.

    I don't see anything odd about it.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    The top ten nouns that follow "elderly" are all human Google Ngrams

    1871 J. Tyndall Fragments of Science · 6th ed, 1879. I. vi. 198 The ‘Urgent’ is an elderly ship.
    Are there any examples of an elderly film or movie which is what the OP is about.

    Ships are often personified and referred to by feminine pronouns so it’s not so odd with a ship as it is with a film.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Here's another Ngram, in which LC's "elderly car" (post #8) out-performs both ship and film, with "elderly film" coming in a poor third.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    This research is such fun!
    I searched for "an elderly *" in the Corpus of Contemporary American English.
    The most frequent 100 words following "an elderly" are 98% nouns for human persons
    or adjectives applicable to persons (mostly adjectives of ethnicity).
    The first clearly nonhuman entry is "dog", ranking #60.
    Number 73 is "an elderly women [sic]", three examples of this typo. Similarly "an elderly gentlemen" is at #93, two instances.
    Number 74 is "an elderly age"—an abstract noun.
    There are no concrete inanimate objects in the first 100 examples.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    From memory, I cannot recall "elderly" being used for objects outside the context of a conveyance of some sort (train, carriage, tram, car, ship, vessel and such like). However I clearly was not paying much attention, as "elderly artefact" sounded quite natural to me. "Elderly" I regarded as being synonymous with "aged" rather than carrying any suggestion of "frail" or "in need of renovation".

    I accept that my (former) usage is non-standard, and "elderly" is usually reserved for people, and would not encourage anyone else to use it like I might have done. Mr King can do what he likes; I would not dream of telling him what to do.:)
     
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